Notebook: Alamar talks special teams
David Shaw Post-Practice 10-23
Stanford made a chance to its special teams last week with the insertion of freshman long snapper C.J. Keller into the lineup. Keller, who had been on track to redshirt this year, handled snapping duties on field goals and PAT's and will continue to do so moving forward. Junior Reed Miller remains the team's long snapper on punts.
Keller "throws a really good ball," Cardinal special teams coach Pete Alamar said. "He has great velocity. He's very accurate. His laces are consistently in that 10-to-2 range, it's always out in front. We just felt for us that... it was going to give us a better opportunity and he deserves the opportunity and the chance to do it."
Stanford's lone field goal attempt in its 26-10 loss at Arizona State was successful, and perhaps its most well-executed attempt of the year. Jordan Williamson boomed a season-long 40-yarder through the uprights
Alamar hopes - and based on Williamson's performance in recent practices - thinks - that it was a sign of things to come.
"I think where he's at right now, I would like to say based on last week's kick and how he's worked recently in practice that he's in a good place," Alamar said. "Any time you get a swing involved it's very little things. There are little things that you have to fix and work on. He's done a great job, he's worked really hard. He's been inconsistent. He's working hard on being more consistent. I thought last week obviously his field goal, both his placement kicks were good. I thought his kickoffs were excellent."
Stanford's kickoff and punt coverage units have been executing at a high level all year. Stanford has not allowed a punt return longer than 20 yards all year or a kickoff return longer than 40. (Stanford has only allowed two kickoff returns of more than 30 yards.)
"We've had a lot of guys step up at different times and be really strong," Alamar said. "On kickoff there have been a couple of guys that jumped in that were relatively new guys. You go back early in the season, Christian McCaffrey was on a hot roll. Peter Kalambayi comes in one week, makes a couple of quick plays and makes an impact on the game. That's probably one of the things that's best.
"Obviously it's disappointing to not have Joe Hemschoot at full (strength) and be able to to do all the things that Joe is capable of doing. The other side of that coin is it has given some young guys a chance to go and get in the game and play and try to affect the game. So I've been really excited about that. Terrence Alexander shows up as a gunner on punt team. He and Christian both have done a lot of that for us and have done a great job. So really, there are kind of a bunch of guys that have really done a nice job of showing up and hopefully being young names that are going to go on and be the Joe Hemschoot's and the Jarek Lancaster's of the future."
Stanford has utilized a few different punt return formations, including one that features two returners in position to field a punt. What purpose does the dual-return system serve?
"You put two returns back for a couple of different reasons," Alamar said. "One, some people will put the second returner back there because he becomes a blocker than can get out in front and assist, block what we call, 'MDM', most dangerous man down the field, and help get the return started. Other people are going to put two back there because maybe you're playing a punt team where they're going to spray the ball away from you, maybe not try to hit towards somebody, hit it away. You'd much rather have a ball fielded than roll.
"Putting two back serves two purposes for us: It gives us two guys to cover the field and it gives us another guy back there, whoever's not catching the ball, an opportunity to get over there and try to help our returner get started."
Alamar said that the decision on whether to utilize the dual-return system is influenced by game plan, which is a result of film study and what Stanford anticipates it will see from the opposition's punt team.
A little over a week ago, Stanford freshman defensive lineman Harrison Phillips was on track for a redshirt year. The Cardinal's defensive line rotation of Henry Anderson, David Parry, Aziz Shittiu and Blake Lueders were healthy and playing at a high level, leaving no need for the Cardinal to press Phillips into early action
But then Shittu went down with an injury in practice, and Phillips' plan changed. Stanford decided to take off his redshirt. Initially, the plan was for the Nebraska native to receive only spot playing time - maybe 10 or so snaps a game, give or take.
Phillips ended up playing somewhere in the vicinity of 40 last week.
That was partially due to a late first half leg injury to nose tackle David Parry. And with Parry out for this weekend's game against Oregon State, Phillips will play a major role yet again.
"He's been practicing extremely well," Shaw said. "He got a little baptism by fire on Saturday night against a very good offensive line, a big, good offensive line. I was excited for him and he was excited. Even the plays that didn't go so well, just to get hat first game under his belt... Harrison did extremely well.
Shaw added that "barring disaster," Stanford will keep the redshirt of fellow freshman defensive end Solomon Thomas intact.
Harrison Phillips discusses transition from redshirt to major contributor
David Parry will miss Saturday's game with a leg injury.
Devon Cajuste, who missed the Arizona State with an apparent concussion, will play this Saturday.
Joe Hemschoot has been battling an undisclosed nagging injury for much of the season and is still not back to full health. As a result, Hemschoot has been limited to primarily special teams play.